VIFF 2017 Interview: ANGKOR AWAKENS director Robert H. Lieberman
By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/02/17 02:39:20
"ANGKOR AWAKENS is an intimate look into the psyche of the Cambodian people. Ostensibly it asks the question, what are the lingering effects on the generation born after the Khmer Rouge genocide. What I have come to discover is that it's really not just specific to Cambodia, but examines how a society can lose its way and go insane. I think it has a lesson to teach us in these troubled times." Director Robert H. Liberman on ANGKOR AWAKENS which screens at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Is this your first VIFF experience and will you be in Vancouver to attend your screenings?
This is my first VIFF screening and I will be present for both screenings!
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background, and how you got into the whole filmmaking business.
I have a strange background. I'm a novelist with a dozen books, a film director with a half dozen films, and I am a Physics Professor at Cornell University. Please don't ask me to explain. It must be schizophrenia!
How did this movie come together from your perspective?
This film was four years in the making and was edited from 220 hours of footage. Up until its US theatrical release, I honestly didn't think it would come together. I was a bit depressed. In the last minute my editor, David Cossack, miraculously pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Then I was sure the critics would crush it. Instead it got a New York Times Critics' pick and there has not been a single bad review. We are 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! So go figure.
While you are working on a movie, what keeps you going? What drives you, creatively? How much coffee?
I'm really just a storyteller, an entertainer, and prospect of having a rapt audience keeps me going. That and I would like to leave behind a legacy of novels and films. And grandchildren.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
The moment of despair, when I couldn't tell anyone in the studio how hopeless the project looked. I could only confess it to my wife.
For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film!
I shot almost the entire film myself, except for the interview with Prime Minister - slash - strong man Hun Sen, where I used our crew. I started shooting myself when I did "They Call it Myanmar", because it was strictly forbidden to film in Burma.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie to audiences here at VIFF?
I relish watching the audience reaction and the give and take in the Q&As. And meeting smart and engaged people.
Where is this movie going to show next? Where can people see it outside of VIFF?
BBC Global News will broadcast the film world-wide next February. Our distributor is Journeyman in the UK and the film is available on many digital platforms including iTunes, and Amazon as well as DVDs available from the website which is at AngkorAwakens.com. We have already screened the film in all major US cities. So this Canadian Premier is really exciting for me.
Movie theaters are the best place to see a movie, but sometimes they can be distracting! What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being overall disruptive during a screening of your film?
Grab their phone and run with it!
There are many aspiring filmmakers reading us for our articles and reviews for inspiration. If you could offer a nugget of advice to them on how to get their start, what would you say to them?
Filmmaking is like pregnancy. If women could remember how miserable giving birth was, they would never have another child. It's good not to try and grasp the whole process of making in a film in one gulp. Take it step by step.
This is one of the many films screening at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 28th to October 13th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.viff.org.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte